I’ve been putting a lot of self-help-ish content around here lately. Maybe you’re wondering where I get off, or what foundation I have to stand upon and give advice. In an effort to illustrate the full picture of how I got to where I am today, I must visit the spectrum of history where I did things the wrong way. Where I majorly messed up. Where I traipsed through experiences that eventually led me to want to “cure” my life. This is one of those stories.
This night took place in April 2014,
just weeks before I found out I had cancer.
The scene: a small party at home with a handful of family and friends.
The catalyst: my second marriage was quickly unraveling and we thought ramping up our social life by hosting a party may be a way to patch things up.
I think it had the potential to be helpful if I wasn’t wrestling with so many demons.
In January, about three months prior, my husband and I had decided to give up the quest towards figuring out why I couldn’t get pregnant. “Unexplained Infertility” is a real diagnosis, and I would venture to say it is one of the most infuriating (this coming from a cancer patient). It was devastating to wave the white flag without any answers after such a long period of testing, but I could not bear the stress of the process any longer. I wanted relief, and hopped on any ship of distraction that would bring me to the shores of forgetting about infertility entirely.
When I was younger, the focus was always on preventing pregnancy. It was like dodging a bullet that always seemed to be lurking around the corner, able to appear at any moment and deliver a life-altering “positive” on a pee stick. I always thought it would be easy. I always thought I had so much time.
But as the potential became more and more unreachable, to the point of being completely out of grasp, I lost all sense of what I was going to do with myself. Becoming a mom was always part of the plan until I realized it couldn’t be, and I had no backup plan.
At that time I was also commuting long distances to a new job I wasn’t jiving with, and had been drawn to mainly because of the alluring health benefits. Little did I know how important those benefits would soon be. My life wasn’t going in the direction I had always imagined, personally or professionally, and I was scrambling to maintain any semblance of momentum. Just as I didn’t know who I was under my mane of blonde hair, I didn’t know who I would be once the possibility of becoming a mom became impossible.
I felt lost, a very common theme in my twenties, and was coping in the most destructive ways. I began to doubt whether I wanted my marriage to continue, feeling very ill-equipped as a partner. I felt like a failure, yet again, for having jumped into a seemingly doomed second marriage, just months after the divorce from my first was finalized.
On this particular night, I lost sight of the intention behind the gathering. I couldn’t mask what was going on inside my head with pleasantries and smalltalk, so I built up my drunken mask to hide the heavy feelings of guilt, uncertainty, and self-loathing. It didn’t take long for me to become extremely inebriated.
I remember sitting at the dining room table, surrounded by chattering people, and withdrawing when I realized just how far gone I was. Sitting in silence I watched the normalcy around me, feeling like I wanted to take off my skin and slink away. I didn’t know what to do with my entirely too drunk self, and eventually decided maybe I should take a timeout.
I stumbled across the hall into the bedroom, laid down, and proceeded to vomit all over our beautiful comforter that I loved so much. The details beyond that point remain hazy, although I still get an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach wondering what the experience must have been like for everyone else. It’s a small house, and they all knew what was happening.
My husband, surely embarrassed though he didn’t let on, politely informed our guests that the party was over. The festivities simmered to silence rather quickly as they all left. The alcohol had smothered the party to death but, as always, my issues remained untouched.
We were far worse off than before the inception of the party, and it was all my fault. As we began to recover from the drama I inflicted upon our household, something far worse and entirely unforeseen was heading our way.
Not long after the party, I awoke one night with a different kind of pain. This mysterious agony was completely devoid of any inebriation and occurred in the womanly parts of my midsection. My annual gynecological appointment was serendipitously the following day, and I reported the pain. That appointment, and subsequent testing, was the catalyst for the discovery of my cancer. You can read my full diagnosis story here.
But this story isn’t about cancer, it is about my pattern of attempting to cope and deal with life in all the wrong ways. Of trying to drown pain, or decipher a direction, or live with a lie, through the aid of alcohol. I have tried very hard to hand over my problems to the drinking Gods, but that tactic never worked. They always hand them back the following morning, tenfold.
My diagnosis, treatments, and entire first year with cancer served as an incredible distraction from the reality I was existing in the night of this notorious party. But just like alcohol, cancer proved to be a temporary interruption and relief from reality. When I regained my health, and the dust had settled, every issue remained. That bleak refocusing on who I was before cancer led to a chain of events that completely unraveled my second marriage, led me to move across the country, and eventually brought me full circle by the time my cancer reappeared this past January.
It was only through time, a lot of wonderfully supportive and insightful resources, introspection, and literal distance, that I was able to fully see the error of my ways. I was able to forgive myself, seek meaning and fulfillment beyond becoming a mom, and cultivate an arsenal of tools to handle any curveball that comes my way. I also stopped being the one to start throwing those curveballs, and am happily settled as a benchwarmer, indefinitely.
I hope this story fills in some blanks as to why I am so intent on curing the negative patterns and habits that destroyed my quality of life for far too many years. All of my missteps have led to this place I call “Cured Life,” and I am thankful that I made it here, in spite of myself.
Sadly, though, I fear that it will forever haunt me to know that a perfectly good party, and comforter, had to be sacrificed along the way.